For the 24th year in a row, The Simpsons offers up three tales of howl-iday terror and delight. Spooky. Well, not especially, given that much like last year’s offering, our annual Treehouse of Horror episode is going out three weeks too soon. I have no idea why they’d air it so early in October, especially since now the series doesn’t return with a new episode until November 3rd. But who am I to question the wisdom of the Fox network?
“Treehouse XXIV” forgoes the now-standard introductory mini-skit in favor of an extended, Halloween-ified opening sequence courtesy of Pacific Rim‘s very own Guillermo del Toro. It’s a fun, well-animated sequence that lends this episode a nice Halloween feel that had been missing in recent years. I had a good deal of fun spotting all the references to both del Toro’s own films and many other science fiction and horror classics (and Futurama). Really, really fun stuff.
So, first up, it’s “Oh, the Places You’ll D’oh.” Despite continuing the series’ aggravating trend of shoehorning Homer’s catchphrase into any episode title too slow to escape, it’s a great segment. Like South Park‘s “A Scause for Applause” from last year, “Places” utilizes a Dr Seuss-inspired animation style. It looks very nice indeed, and the Simpsons characters lend themselves surprisingly well to being Seussified. The story is told in rhyme as well. The Simpsons children have come down with a case of the mumps, and are stuck inside on Halloween night while Marge has left for a party. Enter Homer as The Fat in the Hat, who cures the kids of their mumps and whisks them out the door with promises of tricks and treats. The Fat proves to be little more than a drunk, homicidal version of everyone’s favorite Dr Seuss feline, stealing liquor from Moe’s, blowing up Mr Burns’ mansion, and feeding the corpse to the homeless. It’s nice to have a story that actually has something to do with Halloween for once, even if it’s something of a twofer with a packed-in Dr Seuss parody. I was pleasantly surprised at how deranged this segment is. It might just be a new favorite.
Next is “Dead and Shoulders,” in which Bart is accidentally decapitated and his head is transplanted onto Lisa’s shoulder to save him. The two bicker at first, but come to enjoy each other’s company. Lisa still has full control of her body while awake, but Bart soon discovers that he’s in charge when she’s asleep. He hatches a plan to cut off Lisa’s head and keep the body for himself. It does not end well. This segment felt a little thin. It only ran six or seven minutes and it still felt overextended. I grew rather tired of it quite quickly and spent my time wondering about what happens when they need to poop or how Lisa feels about the fact that he can touch their shared vagina while she sleeps. I am a well-adjusted adult. “Dead and Shoulders” is largely a series of jokes stretching the same material for all it’s worth. Some of those jokes are pretty decent, but there’s not much of interest here.
Last and not least, thanks to the previous segment, it’s “Freaks No Geeks,” a takeoff on the 1932 cult classic Freaks. The setting is a 1930s traveling circus run by Mr Burns, in which Homer is the strong man and Marge performs as an acrobat. Many of the other Simpsons characters are part of the freak show. Moe, one of the freaks, lusts after Marge, especially after she stands up to Mr Burns on their behalf. Unfortunately for him, she’s engaged to Homer. After discovering that Moe has a valuable emerald ring, Homer decides to allow Marge to marry Moe, then kill him, then marry Marge so that the ring becomes his. You follow? It’s a little better than “Dead and Shoulders,” but again, not up to the brilliance of the titles and the first segment. There’s not as much of a focus on humor in this segment, but it sticks close to the Halloween theme and succeeds in being genuinely creepy on a couple of occasions. There’s even a nice sepia-tone to add to the 30s feel. We get some funny callbacks to previous segments, a parody of Freaks‘ more memorable scenes, and a pretty amusing ending that pulls the rug out from under everything. In the end, it mostly just made me miss Carnivàle.
“Treehouse of Horror XXIV” is a much better Halloween special than last year’s outing. By that I mean it more or less maintains a Halloween feel throughout in lieu of last year’s “What Popular Film Can We Parody Now?” mentality. The first segment was wonderfully twisted and could have made the episode a classic were it not for the lesser quality of the other two segments. So scary.